Unit: Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division
Home City of Record: Detroit, MI
Date of Loss: 12 Jul 1967
Loss Coordinates: 134026N 1073809E (YA850131)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
On July 12, 1967, SP4 Martin S. Frank, PFC Nathan B. Henry, Sgt. Cordine McMurray, PFC Stanley A. Newell, PFC Richard R. Perricone, SP4 James F. Schiele and PFC James L. Van Bendegom, all members of Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, were conducting a search and destroy mission along the Cambodian border when their position was overrun by the Viet Cong. With the execption of Schiele, all the men were captured. The U.S. Army notes that Schiele and Van Bendegom were captured by the North Vietnamese, while the others, apparently, were captured by Viet Cong.
PFC Schiele was seen by his platoon leader as his unit was forced to withdraw, leaving him behind. He had been hit a number of times by automatic weapons fire in the legs and chest and was thought to be dead. PFC Perricone stated in his debrief upon return to the U.S. that the enemy camp commander of Camp 102 told him that SP4 Schiele had died of wounds received in the fire fight.
President Nixon shakes hands with former POW Sgt. Codrine McMurray at the State Dept. On May 24, 1973
However, since there was no positive proof of death, the U.S. government placed Schiele in a Missing in Action category. Classified information given to the Vietnamese by Gen. John Vessey in 1987, however, states that both Schiele and Van Bendegom were captured by the North Vietnamese.
PFC Vanbendegom was also wounded in the engagement, and was seen alive by other Americans captured in the same battle about one week after his capture at a communist field hospital in Cambodia, not far from his capture location. One of the released Americans was later told by the commanding North Vietnamese officer at his prison camp in Cambodia that SP4 Vanbendegom had died of his wounds. Vanbendegom was categorized as a Prisoner of War.
The other seven Americans were held in prison camps on the Vietnam/Cambodia border for several months. According to the debriefs of releasees Sooter and Perricone, they and DeLong had attempted to escape from a border camp in Cambodia on November 6, 1967, but were recaptured the same day. Two days later, Sooter and Perricone were shown DeLong's bullet-ridden and blood-soaked trousers and were told that DeLong had been killed resisting recapture. The Vietnamese included DeLong's name on a list of prisoners who had died in captivity (saying he died in November 1967), did not return his remains, and did not offer any explaination.
Sooter, Frank, Henry, Perricone, McMurray and Newell were all released by the PRG in 1973. Frank was never known to be a prisoner by the U.S. Henry was injured, and maintains a permanent disability today. The U.S. is certain the Vietnamese also know the fates of DeLong, Schiele and Vanbendegom, but the Vietnamese continue to remain silent.
Cordine McMurray retired from the United States Army as a Sergeant Major. He lives in North Carolina.
The Detroit News
Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
Behind Former Vietnam POW Cordine McMurray is the customized ceiling in his home he said symbolizes a glimmer of hope from his life's accomplishments.
Cordine McMurray and his four fellow prisoners of war were tied together by a frail rope, literally hanging on to one another for survival. Then they almost died together. "During the trip up north to North Vietnam, we were crossing a bamboo bridge and one of the guys slipped. We held him up," McMurray said.
Below them was a deep river filled with big rocks. "You could see the depth of the river and also the rocks below. Either you would have fallen in the river and drowned, or hit the rocks and died," McMurray said. "If he had fallen, we all would have fallen in and drowned."
McMurray, an Army soldier, was captured by the North Vietnamese on April 12, 1967, with six other soldiers. "Two of them died within two days of our initial capture," he said.
The days and nights of fear and horror didn't end there. McMurray spent six years as a prisoner of war. "I still think about the day some Air Force planes flew over us while we were being transported by the (North Vietnamese) soldiers and just hoping those planes didn't fire on us," said McMurray, 60, who works as a recreation specialist at Selfridge Air National Guard base.
The sting of the United States' defeat in the war continues to anger him. "I kind of think we gave up," said McMurray, the father of two grown sons and two grown daughters. "Why did I stay in that prison that long? "But the war is over. I have to get on with my life -- and that's what I'm doing."
The Detroit News
Monday, May 8, 2000
Sharon Smith has spent more than three decades wondering whether Detroiter Cordine McMurray -- the name on her POW bracelet -- ever made it out of Vietnam alive.
Like many Americans, Smith bought the $5 bracelet in 1967 to support American soldiers fighting in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. "I always prayed -- keep him safe and bring him home," said Smith, a 57-year-old social worker from Hamburg.
Her questions were answered last week when she saw a Detroit News story about McMurray's ordeals as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "It really was a quirk," said Smith, who has four grown sons and two grandchildren. "I looked at the name and ran into my bedroom and looked into my jewelry box. "It was him."
McMurray, an Army soldier, was a prisoner of war for five years in Cambodia after he was captured July 12, 1967.
Smith and McMurray met for the first time Saturday. The two strangers linked only by a silver bracelet were at a loss for words.
Both wore their POW bracelets on their right wrists. "I never knew if you came home or what," said Smith as she delicately touched her silver bracelet that bore McMurray's name, albeit a slight variation in the spelling of his first name with a different date for his capture.
McMurray, now 60 and retired, shared with Smith details of his captivity and his painful recollections of the war in Vietnam. "Sometimes you try to get away from it, but you know you can't -- it's who you are," McMurray said. "I got shot up and I still have shrapnel in my leg. It brings it back. I got shot in the shoulder and face and I got a hand grenade in my right leg."
The war hit close to home for Smith as well. "We lost five classmates at St. Cecilia (High School)," said Smith, a native Detroiter whose husband served in Vietnam. McMurray has received other POW bracelets bearing his name. He says he will mount them in a frame.
Smith's bracelet will be among them. "It's served its purpose," she said,as she handed over her own piece of history to McMurray.
"It's a sense of closure. There was no closure for a lot of us."